[ hem ]
See synonyms for: hemhemmedhemming on Thesaurus.com

verb (used with object),hemmed, hem·ming.
  1. to fold back and sew down the edge of (cloth, a garment, etc.); form an edge or border on or around.

  2. to enclose or confine (usually followed by in, around, or about): hemmed in by enemies.

  1. an edge made by folding back the margin of cloth and sewing it down.

  2. the edge or border of a garment, drape, etc., especially at the bottom.

  1. the edge, border, or margin of anything.

  2. Architecture. the raised edge forming the volute of an Ionic capital.

Origin of hem

First recorded before 1000; Middle English hem(e), Old English hem, probably akin to ham “piece of enclosed land, enclosure”; see origin at home

Other definitions for hem (2 of 3)

[ hem ]

  1. (an utterance resembling a slight clearing of the throat, used to attract attention, express doubt, etc.)

  1. the utterance or sound of “hem.”

  2. a sound or pause of hesitation: His sermon was full of hems and haws.

verb (used without object),hemmed, hem·ming.
  1. to utter the sound “hem.”

  2. to hesitate in speaking.

Origin of hem

First recorded in 1520–30; imitative

Other definitions for hem- (3 of 3)


  1. variant of hemo- before a vowel: hemal.

  • Also especially British, haem-.

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use hem in a sentence

  • She made a little moue at me, and went on hemming the curtains, getting up now and then to measure them.

    The Idyl of Twin Fires | Walter Prichard Eaton
  • But to think of the difference between Parson Hemming and Mr. Gray!

    My Lady Ludlow | Elizabeth Gaskell
  • Mother could hardly use it again even for hemming floor-cloths.

    Queensland Cousins | Eleanor Luisa Haverfield
  • The manufacturer did not reply, and the professor, after a preliminary hemming, held his peace.

    A Traveler from Altruria: Romance | William Dean Howells
  • Miss Hemming, the future Mrs. Guy, was by no means deficient in peculiarity from his people's point of view.

    Witching Hill | E. W. Hornung

British Dictionary definitions for hem (1 of 3)


/ (hɛm) /

  1. an edge to a piece of cloth, made by folding the raw edge under and stitching it down

  2. short for hemline

verbhems, hemming or hemmed (tr)
  1. to provide with a hem

  2. (usually foll by in, around, or about) to enclose or confine

Origin of hem

Old English hemm; related to Old Frisian hemme enclosed land

British Dictionary definitions for hem (2 of 3)


/ (hɛm) /

noun, interjection
  1. a representation of the sound of clearing the throat, used to gain attention, express hesitation, etc

verbhems, hemming or hemmed
  1. (intr) to utter this sound

  2. hem and haw or hum and haw to hesitate in speaking or in making a decision

British Dictionary definitions for hem- (3 of 3)


combining form
  1. a US variant of haemo-

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012